Eminem and His Homophobia Stuck in 1999, Not Even Sia Can Save Him

Marshall Mathers’ album releases tend to have a choreographed routine. The album drops, the critics cheer and everyone bobs their head while it plays on the radio. Then the public slowly starts to backpedal once they actually take the time to decipher the lyrics. Rather than listen to his accusers or learn a lesson from what he’s done, Eminem’ll hide behind an Un-offended Representative of the Mocked Minority to make it all better. It happened with The Marshall Mathers LP, it happened with The Eminem Show and it happened with Relapse. So as the Marshall Mathers LP 2 receives rave reviews on par with the first, Eminem hasn’t forgotten any of his dance moves.

This was supposed to be an album that proved that Eminem could still be relevant to his fans. After over a decade screaming obscenities into a mike working out his anger issues, you gotta wonder how long that can be considered amusing. Instead of going at it alone, he paired with 2013 heavy hitters like Rihanna. But while his previous albums showed musical growth and seemed to show some degree of maturation, old habits stick. Rather than picking up a fucking thesaurus and learning a few words, he’d rather stick with his old favourites.

Rapgod

“Rap God” is the worst of the album, with lyrics so triggering I’d rather not post them in full. Time calls the single “divine” while The Week calls it out as blatantly homophobic. In an excerpt from a Rolling Stone interview Brian Hiatt questions Eminem’s continuous choice of problematic slurs when the performer has the luxury of time and money to rework his music before it ever gets aired. Mathers does little more than a juvenile shrug.

HIATT: You’ve made it clear again and again that you don’t actually have a problem with gay people. So why, in 2013, use “faggot” on that song? Why use “gay-looking” as an insult?
EMINEM: I don’t know how to say this without saying it how I’ve said it a million times. But that word, those kind of words, when I came up battle-rappin’ or whatever, I never really equated those words . . .

HIATT: To actually mean “homosexual”?
EMINEM: Yeah. It was more like calling someone a bitch or a punk or asshole. So that word was just thrown around so freely back then. It goes back to that battle, back and forth in my head, of wanting to feel free to say what I want to say, and then [worrying about] what may or may not affect people.

In 2010 Eminem patted himself on the back, “supporting” gay marriage and claimed at 37 he had grown into a “new tolerant me.” So why has he regressed at 41? Maybe he’s just too blinded by his talent and privilege to realize that there are people around him, people that still get those slurs used against them. “I’m glad we live in a time where it’s really starting to feel like people can live their lives and express themselves.”

Eminem

While it’s expected that Eminem riles up audiences for millions of dollars while defending his ignorance as artistry, it’s still upsetting when his apologists show up. Eminem made a point of performing with Elton John in 2001 because “…being that he was gay and he had my back, I think it made a statement in itself saying that he understood where I was coming from.” Instead of feeling used, John happily fulfilled the token role, justifying his participation as acceptable since he’d never work with someone truly homophobic. John was lambasted by members of GLAAD and other gay support groups, but he said he had to do it to break down barriers in music. Now, a dozen years later, Sia is the one playing chaperone.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOPptzZL7wo

Sia worked with Eminem on “Beautiful Pain.” But after Sia had a lengthy Twitter discussion with HuffPo writer Keo Nozari where she was reminded of just how powerful those slurs still are, backpedaled.

Nozari

Sort of. She generously decided to donate her side of the earnings to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Centre, but not before defending her participation.

I know personally that he is not homophobic, but a performance artist. I would never work with someone I believed to be homophobic. I respect that he can be misinterpreted in the worst way by the ignorami, and that scares me, but I respect him as an artist and person.

While I want to give kudos to Sia for actually taking action when someone criticized the power of her complacency, Eminem isn’t the one that deserves the respect here. We all love Sia as a performer and an activist and a fellow queer, but is anything accomplished when a token minority gets to step in to do damage control for a foul-mouthed prick? Call me an ignoramus if I’m “misinterpreting” the phrase “And now I should be able to break a motherfuckin’ table / Over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half.” He shouldn’t be pairing with artists that are willing to defend his missteps, but rather make the effort to not make them in the first place. If Eminem follows Sia’s lead and actually shows support without pointing at a token for approval, then that would be doing something different.

An Evening With Women Benefiting The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center - Red Carpet

But until that day comes, there’s nothing ground-breaking about resorting to slurs. There’s nothing respectable about saying you support gay marriage while deriding the flamboyant ones. No matter how much Eminem preaches that this venom is coming from a persona separate from the “gay-loving” Marshall Mathers, it all rings hollow. Does anything happening behind his closed doors matter when he’s on stage and on the radio calling everyone beneath him “fag?” “I think people know my personal stance on things and the personas that I create in my music. And if someone doesn’t understand that by now, I don’t think there’s anything I can do to change their mind about it.”

Hey Eminem, Marshall Mathers, Slim Shady, whoever you are, maybe you should listen to your own lyrics and take your own advice.

As time passes, things change everyday
But wounds, wounds heal
But scars still remain the same

Hailing from Vancouver, Kristen's still trying to figure out how to survive Montreal's Real Legitimate Canadian Winter. So far she's discovered that warm socks, giant toques and Tabby kittens all play a role in her survival. Her ultimate goal is to rank higher than KStew in the "Kristen + Autostraddle" Google Search competition.

Kristen has written 140 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. I’d like to hear this guy explain why the fact that he’s doing “art” makes it OK somehow. A lot of bigots seem to think that “art” and “bigotry” are mutually exclusive categories. “Humor” and “bigotry” are mutually exclusive categories. But haven’t these people ever heard of racist jokes, of sexist art? We’re not speaking as to whether you are making art or not, dude, we are saying that your art has a shitty message.

    What is the message behind Eminem’s art? He’s portraying a homophobic character, and this character is really cool? How is that not offensive? Is his “persona” portrayed as a horrible, bigoted person who no one should emulate? That’s not been my impression. I think his “persona” is actually portrayed as a pretty cool, amazing person.

    If Eminem wasn’t homophobic, he wouldn’t be continually doing homophobic things for his “art.” There is no plausible explanation for how a person could doing homophobic things like that for (at least) 14 years after being repeatedly called out on them and not be actively homophobic in his heart of hearts. He obviously thinks queer people and our feelings are worthless, otherwise he would change his behavior. He’s just trying to have it both ways. . .to appeal to the pro-LGBT market and the homophobic market simultaneously. Sending out mixed messages maximizes increases the amount of money he can make.

  2. The homophobia and misogyny are why I’ve never been a huge fan of Eminem despite coming from Detroit (where he’s a “local hero” to a certain extent…) Sucks to hear that nothing has changed in all these years.

  3. yo seriously, mad respect for this article. he doesn’t know what to do w himself.

    also, eminem is wak as hell and has been since his last D-12 album. no one in the hood bumps his shit. this last song “bezerk” was trash. he sounds corny. he needs to stop. stop right now. drop the mic bro. he’s as relevant as kelly ripa being mad about All My Children being cancelled.

    eminem can drop all the f-bombs he wants cuz no one cares. once the hood stops caring about you, your hip hop days are numbered.

    him, jay-z, and yeezy need to keep an eye out cuz they’re about to drop off like whoa.

  4. I will be the black sheep in this one. Words evolve and the importance lies within the context. I too came from an area where the words “fag” and “gay” had nothing to do with gender preference or sexuality. They meant “stupid” or “dumb”. A person’s sexual preference had nothing to do with it. The word gay means happy and some chose to use it in a derogatory manner, so does that now mean “gay” can only apply to those preferring someone of the same sex? In my opinion, No. Eminem does use these words in a degrading manner, but not in the way some seem to think. The intent behind them is the most important. If Eminem’s intent was against “gays” I might understand the uproar.

    I understand the touchiness of the words because of the struggles and horrors of many, but these are words that need to be seen in the correct light. We can wish he chose other words, but condensing it to homosexual bashing seems a bit far-fetched.

    Has anyone ever said “sit Indian style”? We might want to ask an Indian if that is their style or something attached from bad representations in film. Have we ever told our friend “you’re so retarded”? I am sure the handicaps appreciate that. Not meaning it against those with disabilities or to poke fun in anyway, but it could be seen that way. We know this because if a disabled person was standing right there it would have either slipped or we would have chosen not to say it. Though knowing that, we will still say it at other times. After everything woman have gone through to be taken seriously we as lesbians refer to them as “chicks” etc. We have taken bad and used it in a positive manner, or did we? The point here is we need to acknowledge those who do have bad intent, not those exercising their freedom of expression.

    • I tend to avoid Eminem because I think he’s a douchebag, so unfortunately I can’t quote you his lyrics chapter and verse. I do know that the original version of his song “My Name Is” (I know, I know, it’s more than 14 years old now) included the line “Raping lesbians while they’re screaming at me ‘let’s just be friends.'” So right here. . . his “character” is talking about correctively raping lesbian women. I assume, based off the broader context of the song, that this idea of raping lesbians was supposed to be “funny.”

      As far as I’m aware, the guy has made many lyrics that clearly and specifically mention LGBTQ people in a derogatory way. Not merely used the word “f*g” or “f***ot” in a way that it could potentially just mean “stupid.” But clearly referred to queer folks and put us down, a la his line in the original “My Name Is.”

      But really. . .even using the words “gay” or “f*g” in any kind of insulting sense is enough to be messed up. Why should straight people get to appropriate our positive words for ourselves, like “gay” and turn them into generic insults? Why is this an example of positive or acceptable linguistic evolution in your opinion? And why should straight people be able to take the vile slurs that they have used against people in our community, slurs like “f*g,” and then repurpose them to serve as general purpose insults in order to continue to use them and not get called out for it?

      I assume you understand why these particular words evolved in this particular direction. It wasn’t just some random accident of nature. It initially had to do with straight people comparing other straight people to queer folks as an insult, because we are supposedly such horrible, disgusting freaks. Over time, these straight people used these words so much that the original meaning got lost. So they did a shitty thing SO MUCH that their shitty thing actually started to become MEANINGLESS. That’s pretty messed up, and I don’t think it gives anyone a pass. Any actual ally would realize this and stop using these words in this particular way. Just like any actual ally to folks with disabilities would stop using words like “r**arded.” The fact that you use that analogy to bolster your case, as if everyone here says “r**arded” and is as politically naive and as insensitive to other oppressed groups as you are. . .well, it’s kinda hilarious.

      I’ll admit. . .when I was in high school I used “gay” as an insult. “R**arded” as an insult I kept up even in college. But you know what? People called me out on it. People said, “whoa, what you are talking about? That’s kinda offensive.” And instead of being. . .”hey screw you! My intentions are good! I’m exercising my freedom of expression!” I actually thought about what they had to say. Because believe it or not I don’t WANT to unintentionally hurt people. I thought about what the people who called me out had to say, and then ultimately decided to change my way of speaking. Apparently this is something that little old queer me can do, but big straight dude millionaire Eminem cannot do.

      So you’re not personally hurt or offended by his lyrics? Well, a lot of people in our community are. Why should our feelings just be dismissed? What kind of “ally” is Eminem if he just doesn’t care. . .if he can’t even make these minor adjustments to avoid hurting marginalized people?

    • Oh and one more thing. I tend to not like to bring up too many specifics from my past because I don’t want it to change the way people view me. But I’m a trans woman, and when I was younger it was common for me to be read by others as a gay man (a very twinky one, at that). So yeah. . .I’ve had the word “f***ot” used against me. And I don’t mean being used against me like one of my frat bros coming over to me and being like “C’mere you f***ot” and then giving me a bear hug. I mean being used against me like some random bigot I didn’t know screaming “f***ot” at me on the sidewalk and then trying to physically assault me. So it’s kinda hard for me to find words like that “entertaining”–especially when they are used by macho straight dudes of dubious allyship such as Eminem–dudes that don’t look completely unlike the type of folks who might want to attack me. I would estimate that the number of people who have had these words repeatedly used against them in a violent context and yet can laugh off straight people using them as insults is probably quite low. So a lot of the justifications for these insults just seem very convoluted and out-of-touch when you’ve had my kinda of personal experience.

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